Four a.m. on a Monday is an in-between time. The debauched have ended the weekend passed out on somebody's sofa, their hangovers still hours away; the obsessively healthy sleep on, yet to rise and don running shoes and Lycra.
The city is a lonely wasteland, lit by the orange glow of sodium arc lamps. I'm alone out here apart from the odd idling taxicab, a city works truck or two, and a single bakery van. And, one presumes, Batman.
The Murano's wild design isn't for everyone, but it's certainly no wallflower.
Roaming around your hometown by yourself in the wee hours is a highly recommended activity if you'd like to rediscover the place. All you need do is set your alarm early enough and find yourself a comfortable seat from which to watch the show. Here's mine for this morning – the 2015 Nissan Murano.
The Murano is named after a small chain of islands off the coast of Venice, fabled as the home of artisan glassblowers. Well, not fabled exactly: they're all there because long-ago folks were worried the craftspeople would burn the entire city to the ground if they got the hiccups or something.
The original crossover was a sort of duckbilled dumpling, all rotund curves and a chrome-laden grille. If you've got very young kids it might remind you of the character Quack from Peep and the Big Wide World. Except with wheels.
This new version looks a bit like someone held the Add Stuffing button down a little too long at the BMW i8 factory. Actually, I think it looks great, especially in this Platinum trim with 20-inch wheels to balance out all that crazily contorted sheet metal. The Nissan badge on the nose is big enough to count as a Texas belt-buckle, but you could quite easily have fitted a premium-brand tag here instead; the Murano's wild design isn't for everyone, but it's certainly no wallflower.
Frankly, Nissan has done a great job pushing this thing forward as the theoretical halo carrier for the brand. Oh yes, there's the GT-R too, but that's something else entirely. The Murano, and especially this Platinum-grade version, firmly occupies the shaded space of the overlapping Venn diagram between Nissan and Infiniti. If the question is “Why spend more?”, I'm having a tough time finding an answer.
The be-winged headlights and layered strawberry shortcake taillights are both festooned with LEDs, and the strong front shoulder line gives the new Murano a muscular presence. Mark my words – that floating rear roof is about to become the design element du jour, already showing up in everything from Mazda's little CX-3 to BMW's plug-in hybrid sports car.
On the inside, the Murano is a little more conservative, but still really nice. “Nice” is perhaps a bit of a weak word, but you can't help but find yourself repeating it as you check out the surroundings. The seats are really comfortable and the leather feels great – niiice. The brushed-metal-look trim is fairly convincing – nice! The central touchscreen is relatively uncluttered and less of a muddle than efforts from Infiniti or Acura – nice one, Nissan.
A roof-spanning panoramic roof brightens up the cabin considerably, and rear-seat occupants of the Murano will also benefit from heated seats and a USB connector that actually plugs into the infotainment. The rears are adult-sized and reclining, and nearly as cushy as up front.
If the Rogue is already a success, positioned as a family car for those with young kids, then the Murano's kind of a treat for those whose kids have flown the coop. There's plenty of cargo space here – 1,121 L with rear seat up, 1,979 with it down – but if you're going to need to haul lots of stuff, you're going to want the quite-similar Pathfinder. Ditto if you're going to want to haul the family camper, as the tow rating on the Murano is a ho-hum 680 kg.
However, what the Murano delivers as it tiptoes through this slumbering city by the sea, is glass-float smoothness. The V6 never raises its voice, reined in by a Continuously Variable Transmission that's been a hallmark of the badge for more than a decade. They've really polished it here, so while the exterior of the car is all sharp angles and edges to catch the eyeball, the driving experience is as topography-free as a cue ball. Even these 20-inch wheels, which ordinarily impart a touch of you-have-died-of-dysentery to a vehicle's ride, haven't harmed the glide much.
All of which, it has to be said, would be a lot more impressive if my seat wasn't squeaking against the console so much. Happily, a few adjustments and it seems to fade away to a less noticeable level.
Other niggles include that the Murano opens up a new frontier in the War On Rear Visibility, with plenty of sheet metal out back to making reversing, um, interesting. The front A-pillars are a little overlarge too, but that's true of almost any modern vehicle working to combine aerodynamic needs and safety standards.
However, a back-up camera is standard for the Murano, and you get Nissan's excellent 360-degree camera system on SL trims and up. A word of warning here, if before you just liked to park your car at approximately the right angle and leap out, the AroundView's top-down camera system will have you obsessing over getting the perfect parking alignment every time. It's like a particularly addictive video game.
During our recent family crossover roundup, it was remarked that the Rogue might not raise your heart rate, but it could in fact lower it. The Murano is the same idea writ V6-powered, and padded with sound-deadening material. The steering is very numb without being overly sloppy. The brakes seem up to the task, and the 3.5L V6 doles out a goodly portion of its 240 lb-ft of torque low in the range – there's 260 hp at 6,000 rpm for passing maneuvers, but mostly the Murano's six would rather hum along below 2,000 rpm.
It's really quite likeable, while at the same time being about as sporty as a pillow-top mattress. Grip and acceleration aren't the issue, there's just a very noticeable comfort-first Prime Directive.
Fuel economy figures are quite good, though please note that a West Coast winter is merely damp, not cold. Official ratings are 11.2 L/100 km in the city and 8.3 L/100 km on the highway. I averaged the same as the outside thermometer has done since January – solidly in the 10s.
The Murano would make for a rather nice après-ski machine, and given the power of the heated seats and steering wheel, is at least partially a jacuzzi. The lumbar support is only two-way adjustable, and only for the driver, but other than that, it's a nice place to be when you've expended your energy shredding the slopes, or cycling, or hiking, or ballroom dancing, or whatever else people in tooth-whitening commercials seem to always be doing.
As I cut through Gastown, out through Stanley Park and back over the Lion's Gate Bridge, traffic is starting to pick up. Cars are flooding back into the downtown core, some of them early morning business-types who will be putting in a long day behind a keyboard.
If they come down to the parkade at the end of the day to find one of these things waiting to ferry them back to the comforts of home, it'll be a decompression tank that starts acting right away. Many cars fail by trying to be in-betweeners, too many things at once. The Murano just has one job – provide premium comfort without treading too far into Infiniti's territory. At this task, it's excellent.
So back to bed for a quick kip before the kid's up and banging pots and pans around. Good night sea. Good night Vancouver. Good night taxicabs. Good night skyscrapers.
Good night, Batman.
Good night, Murano.
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/60,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance
|Model Tested||2015 Nissan Murano Platinum|
|Price as Tested||$45,648|
Pearl White Paint - $300